Millennials are the least likely among the U.S. population to say they respond positively to product recall notices, according to new research commissioned by Stericycle Expert Solutions.
A consumer survey1 of over 1,000 Americans found that most claim to comply with recall notices for food, pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, and consumer electronics. However, the study also showed that millennials (age 18-34) are the least compliant across all age groups. In fact, compared to baby boomers (age 55+), millennials are twice as likely to say they usually ignore recall notices (18 percent v. 6 percent), after reading it; typically throw it in the trash (36 percent v. 16 percent); and consider recall notices “not serious” (33 percent v. 21 percent). The findings suggest that manufacturers undergoing a recall may need to rethink their communication strategies with this demographic to improve compliance rates.
Surprisingly, millennials ranked recalls of consumer electronic products least important, but agreed with their fellow Americans that food and pharmaceutical recalls are most important, with nearly 70 percent of all respondents ranking these recall categories first or second in order of importance. Millennials also ranked last in acting on product recalls for motor vehicles, food, and pharmaceuticals.
In fact, the survey found that personal relevance – or lack thereof – was a key driver of recall non-compliance. Approximately 70 percent of respondents said they judge recall notices based on whether they think they are personally at risk. And more than one-quarter (26 percent) believe that recall notices are not serious and are sent mainly out of legal obligation.
Well over half of consumers (60 percent) surveyed say they have never received a recall notice for a consumer electronics item. Of those who have, 27 percent say they responded only some of the time or not at all.
So which consumer product categories do consumers take most seriously? Appliances and power tools. Of seven items tested, approximately 80 percent of respondents ranked appliances as the first or second item they would most likely take action on should they get a recall notice. Coming in at second place was power tools, with 35 percent.
For car owners, more than one-third of respondents say they have never received a recall notice for a motor vehicle.
Similarly, consumers will at least generally check their food and drug purchases if they hear about a recall indirectly. Approximately 85 percent of respondents say they check their refrigerators or cupboards when they hear about a food recall on the news or via social media, while 82 percent say they check their medicine cabinet for a recalled pharmaceutical product.
The research shows that product recalls are as much a communications challenge as they are a logistical one. Given that millennials are now the largest living American generation and will drive the greatest percentage of product purchases in the near future, manufacturers will need to find new, innovative ways to make recall compliance easier and more relevant to this generation.
1The U.S. consumer survey was conducted by Stericycle Expert Solutions, August 23-25, 2017, using the national Toluna QuickSurvey panel, n=1,104 (results weighted to match U.S. Census data).
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